While teens aren’t overrunning Silicon Valley yet, talent-starved tech companies are reaching out to kids to fill spots in their internship programs. Facebook says it has just begun to recruit teens before their freshman year of college. LinkedIn (LNKD) opened its summer program to high schoolers two years ago; Airbnb has had interns as young as 16. “Talent is our No. 1 operating priority and our most important asset,” LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner said on his company’s most recent earnings call, welcoming this summer’s crop of interns.
We’ve seen it in sports. Teams try to identify prodigies at the earliest possible age. Top high school kids are pulled in to play professional sports. Arguably one of the best soccer players in the world, Lionel Messi, was contracted by FC Barcelona at the age of 11 and moved from his home town in Argentina to Spain.
This same competitiveness has come to tech. Tech companies and government agencies are visiting (and sponsoring) science fairs, looking to identify and bring on board blossoming talent before their competitors.
As long as the situation is handled responsibly, as long as each child’s welfare and educational needs come first, this has the potential to be a win-win.